Though it’s been a few years since its release, a 2017 report from The Service Council on a sustainable field service workforce is just as applicable today as it was then. In that report, the Chief Customer Officer described staffing issues within the industry. At the time, he highlighted the impending talent crisis created by the retirement of aging employees. Three years later, this is now an ongoing crisis.

Cascading effects of short-staffing include reduced morale, competitiveness, and innovation.

According to the annual global talent report by The Manpower Group, there are shortages of up to 50% in larger companies (250+ employees).

Chart credit: The Manpower Group, UK

(Image source: manpowergroup.co.uk)

“For the sixth year in a row, skilled trade positions were the hardest roles to fill […] Occupying the fourth and fifth spots were technicians and engineers respectively. As a result, many organizations are reporting a significant impact on their ability to meet client needs” (WBR Insights). Cascading effects of short-staffing include reduced morale, competitiveness, and innovation.

Technicians in field service may possess unique skill sets not found in other industries, but this is a superficial differentiator. Businesses across industries benefit from the internal promotion. When your company is faced with a dearth of field service managers, look to your current techs as potential candidates. Below are our top five tips for what to look for when promoting a technician to a field service leader and how to maintain a solid field service staff.

1) Confidence and knowledge

Confident technicians who have demonstrated a wide range of skills are likely to succeed as field service leaders. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that overconfident CEOs of corporations had lower turnover, developed better working relationships, and increased staff commitment. Confidence must be backed up by demonstrated capability, and the technician with a calm, confident attitude and the ability to handle almost any job is a good bet for promotion.

On the knowledge front, leaders should be subject matter experts and more than capable of answering a wide breadth of questions. A tech who has displayed that level of knowledge, even outside of their station or scope of responsibility, is likely a good candidate for a promotion to management.

2) Interested in mentoring others & building deep relationships

In their findings, the Service Council showed that more than half of all field service businesses were interested in introducing mentorships to connect multi-generational workforces. When employees can form meaningful relationships with leadership, companies see a boost in employee confidence and performance. The most meaningful relationships are mentorships between current leaders and staff below them.

Mentoring can be flexible, whether it’s an organized program or just managers providing positive feedback on performance. No matter what it looks like, mentoring can pay significant dividends on employee satisfaction. Gallup stats reveal that turnover rates fall by nearly 15% in cases where the employees received positive, constructive feedback from managers.

Related: Telematics Collaboration: Leadership is Key

3) Critical thinking skills

Most frontline employees receive tasks with some instruction on how to complete them. But, take note of the techs who work efficiently, without directions. These techs can adjust to a change or hiccup in real-time and seamlessly pivot to complete the job. Experience with a wide variety of difficult on-the-job situations is key here; look for techs with a history of many different, successful jobs.

Having the mental acuity to analyze a situation, find a solution, and complete it to perfection should be a requirement for field service managers. Look for technicians with a solid problem-solving track record and a positive attitude in the face of adversity.

Related: Fleet Manager Skills That Make a Difference

4) Accountability and ownership

We should all want to take pride in our work. The reality though is there are some techs who are simply just more personally invested. As you evaluate potential managers from your existing tech ranks, consider individual accountability. Did an employee make a mistake, own up to it, and fix it promptly? View these incidents as a positive learning opportunity; rather than focusing on the initial mistake, applaud the tech’s honesty and willingness to own the situation and correct it. Evaluate their performance following these interactions as well. Do they self-correct, seek advice from someone with more knowledge, or even sign up for training? These are all positive signs that the tech takes accountability and wants to improve.

Leadership experts have long touted the benefit of creating an ownership mentality among employees. The goal is to thoroughly teach employees until they are confident in their knowledge (tip #1) and aren’t afraid to work without supervision (see tip #3).

5) Fascinated with continuous learning

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with employees who come to work, punch the clock, do a good job, and head home. You need rank-and-file technicians who will do the job correctly, on time, and with a decent attitude. But, those probably aren’t the techs to promote. They might not even appreciate the offer, as they enjoy their job and don’t want more stress. Keep this in mind when considering promotion from within; the above traits are the differentiators between a solid worker-bee and someone who can do their current job but is capable of (and open to) doing more.

People cut from leadership cloth have a growth mindset. They are also supported by their own thirst for knowledge. Find a tech who enjoys achieving and learning new skills, and you may have just found your next leader.

After decades of working in the field, EnSight+ knows what challenges come with promoting from within your field service business. We can’t make those staffing decisions for you, but we can provide insight like the tips above. And we can make your business more effective overall, with our cloud-based field service management software.

To learn more about how our solution works and how we can help you improve efficiencies in the field, book a free demo today.

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